'Big step forward': Senator Mitt Romney on $2 trillion stimulus deal he helped create

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Sen. Mitt Romney (File photo: KUTV)

The U.S. Senate made a late-night deal Tuesday to pass a $2.2 trillion emergency relief package designed to flood the U.S. economy with cash as families and business worry about their bottom line.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney, quarantined at home in Utah says, “all in all, it’s a good package.” Good, but not perfect, with “a lot of flaws” due to the speed in which it was drafted and agreed on. Romney does see it as “a big step forward “with relief coming to the American family, to employers and employees.

Romney, who flew home to Utah on a privately chartered flight Sunday, was not in D.C. for the final negotiations, but he says his hand can been seen in the final product.

The bulk of the bill, Romney says, was written before he left D.C.

“I was able to get my input from the beginning. The final bill includes those exactly as we negotiated them.”

He was on a task force working to come up with payments to individual families as well as unemployment insurance. He worked with Florida Senator Marco Rubio on the small business committee to fashion what a relief plan that would help small businesses.

There have been concerns over un-needed spending, and Romney says some of those items ended up in the bill, but those items he believes are not “going to make a huge difference” when it is a good overall package senators need to support overall.

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One area that Romney had concerns about relates to unemployment insurance. Democrats, he says, “insisted we increase unemployment by $600 a week.” What that would mean, in some cases, is someone in Utah who gets $400 a week in unemployment will get $1,000 a week.

In some cases, “that is more than they were getting than when they were employed.”

Romney and other members of the GOP see it as an “adverse incentive for someone to try and get fired to make more money on unemployment than at work.” Clearly he says that’s not a good idea, but Democrats insisted on it. Those boosted unemployment insurance checks will last for four months under the current agreement.

States will get relief based on population. Utah’s population is about 1% of the national population, which means the state, cities and counties will have about $1.5 billion in aid pouring in.

Families could see checks as soon as two weeks after the president signs the bill. Those payments will vary depending on income and will be based on 2018 tax returns.

  • Sends every American earning less than $75,000 a check for $1,200, or $2,400 for couples earning less than $150,000, plus $500 for each dependent. Americans earning more will receive a phased down amount, with an upper limit on qualifying income of $99,000 per individual and $198,000 per couple.
  • Expands each state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program by adding $600 each week to every recipient’s check for four months to provide immediate assistance to workers who are laid-off, furloughed, self-employed or are independent contractors.
  • Creates the Paycheck Protection Program with $349 billion of 100% federally-guaranteed loans to eligible small businesses and non-profits to cover expenses, maintain their payroll, and recover from the financial impacts of the coronavirus. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans can be forgiven to keep employees in their jobs and ready to return to work.
  • Provides $10 billion for emergency grants of up to $10,000 for eligible small businesses and nonprofits that apply for a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
  • Provides $10 billion for emergency grants of up to $10,000 for eligible small businesses and nonprofits that apply for a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

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Utahns who do not file a W-2 and get veterans benefits may have to wait longer to see those checks.

Small businesses in Utah will have access to a huge influx of cash as well. Small businesses will be able to apply for loans and get money in the same day, likely starting next week. Businesses who keep employees on the payroll can get 2.5 times their monthly payroll to keep the lights on, rent paid and employees paid during the shutdowns. That money would not need to be paid back to the federal government if the stipulations are met.

Romney answered questions about his quarantine. He says he’s keeping his normally busy schedule with meetings over the phone and on Zoom. Sunday, he used the Zoom app to hold a worship service with his five children and their families scattered across the country. He’s had his Costco groceries dropped off to him, along with meals.

As for how he felt about the president’s tweet about him this morning: “I find Twitter to be a good source of humor.”